December 6, 2016 by Lorra B.
Lonely and away from home you scroll online through social media to pass the time and the next thing you know you have exchanged pictures with someone. Not a problem, unless those pictures have left you exposed, literally.
Now you are being blackmailed for hundreds of dollars and if you don’t pay up your life is threatened to be turned upside down as you are told your photo (or video) will be shared with everyone you know.
Sextortion is described by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) as a “cybercrime perpetrated against unwitting victims who are approached in casual conversation via social media and then seduced into engaging in online sexual activities. After fulfilling the sexual requests, which are recorded without the victim’s knowledge or consent, the victim is threatened with public exposure and embarrassment if he does not pay a specified sum of money to the perpetrator, usually through a wire transfer.”
Military service members are being urged not to engage in explicit sexual activities online as the number of sextortion cases grow, reportsMilitary.com. Since August of 2012 more than 180 marines and sailors have fallen victim to this scam with a request for payment usually between $500 to $1,500.
Megan Bolduc, NCIS Division Chief, stated, “We’ve had service members individually pay as much as $11,000. It only stops because credit cards were maxed out.”
The concern isn’t just about a military member’s indiscretions it is also about National Security. According to Katherine McDonald with NCIS, “The concern really is twofold: the concern of harm to themselves and, on a national security level, a lot of these service members do have [security] clearances.”
The concern is that criminals will try to obtain ‘sensitive’ information from service members.
According to a spokesperson for NCIS, Ed Buice, “Screen captures or printouts of the conversations or anything like that is always very helpful. We have cyber agents who try to follow the electronic trail to get any information that’s available.”
Regardless of efforts to warn, educate and discourage military service members from falling victim to these predators, the sextortion reports continue to climb.
Bolduc stated, “Part of that, too, is that we have gotten the word out in so many different ways and encouraged reporting. I think people are more willing to come forward, but incidents are also increasing.”
The Philippines receive most of the wire transfers from the victims because complaints of wrongdoing must be filed in person.
McDonald stated that a ring of 50 were busted in the Philippines earlier this year. According to MilitaryTimes, “The organization was somewhat sophisticated. It had a payroll and offered bonuses to employees who swindled the most money. But on the whole, sextortion is difficult to prosecute. In the Philippines, for instance, the government requires that a victim come in person to file a report.”
Even though a victim pays does not insure that the photo or video in question will not be exposed. Often the media finds its way to Facebook or Youtube anyway, according to Bolduc. You can, however, inform the sites and request they be taken down.
“If you call and report the issue, they will take the videos down.”
All of the efforts to prosecute the scammers has so far proven impossible and not one has been prosecuted.
If you have fallen victim, law enforcement officials encourage you to NOT send money, stop all communication and save all correspondence.